News / Africa

Egyptians Rally Against Ruling Military Council

Egyptian women protesters shout as they raise slogans demanding the head of the military ruling council to step out at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, December 23, 2011.
Egyptian women protesters shout as they raise slogans demanding the head of the military ruling council to step out at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, December 23, 2011.
Noel King

Thousands of Egyptians gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday, demanding that Egypt's ruling military council cede power to a civilian government.

Friday’s rally began with a few hundred people, but by late afternoon the crowd had swelled to several thousand, who chanted demands for an end to military rule.

The marchers represented a broad spectrum of Egyptian society, with liberal groups, conservative Salafis and women’s rights activists standing side-by-side.

A march in support of Egyptian women drew hundreds of people to the square. Guwayha Gaber held a sign detailing what she called a list of abuses against women by the ruling military council.

"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is guilty of attacking Egyptian women here in Tahrir Square," she said via translator. "But more than that, the laws in Egypt are unfair to women."

Egyptian women have become increasingly assertive in recent days, organizing marches and protests that spotlight what they call vulnerability of women in Egyptian society.

Several amateur videos of female protesters being clubbed and kicked by Egyptian troops have shocked and angered Egyptians and drawn thousands to the streets in recent days.

A separate march in memory of a prominent Egyptian religious leader drew hundreds more to the square.

Islamic scholar Sheikh Emad Effat was fatally shot in the heart during a demonstration in Cairo last week.

Twenty-three-year-old Omar Baghdash carried a photo of the scholar and said Effat’s death -- and the army’s denial of any involvement -- has infuriated many Egyptians.

"He was killed by the army with a sniper shot in his heart," said Baghdash. "We call for the rights of Sheikh Emad. They said he was killed by a bullet shot to his stomach, not his heart. They say who killed him is not the army, that it’s a third party. It’s a lie."

Despite their different backgrounds, protesters agreed on at least one thing: Egypt’s ruling military council should step aside and hand over power to a civilian government.

Egypt is in the midst of parliamentary elections that have seen surprising success among conservative parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the strictly conservative Salafi parties.

Presidential elections are scheduled for July of 2012. Some Egyptians want that election held sooner.

A separate rally in support of the military council reportedly drew several thousand demonstrators in Cairo’s Abbasiya neighborhood. Many Egyptians feel that the country would descend further into chaos without the firm hand of the military council.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

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